Nearly 7,500 Spartan Grads Celebrated at Spring Commencement

by | May 22, 2023 | Awards and Achievements

Photo: David Schmitz.

Spartan pride will fill the Provident Credit Union Event Center from May 24–26, as thousands of new SJSU graduates will walk the stage in front of their families, friends and supporters at the spring 2023 commencement ceremonies.

Just under 7,500 Spartans will be recognized for completing their bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degrees in the spring or summer terms. Ten commencement ceremonies will span the three days, with President Cynthia Teniente-Matson presiding over her first commencement ceremonies since becoming SJSU’s president in January. All the ceremonies will be livestreamed.

Among those in this year’s graduating class is the first cohort from SJSU Online, the university’s newly launched fully online degree completion program. 

“Earning this degree has been such a journey,” said Llarelie Jimenez, ‘23 Interdisciplinary Studies. “SJSU Online has made it a great experience with a great advising team and professors.”

There are also several SJSU staff who will be graduating, including Elaine Narciso, ’23 MPH, a Wellness & Health Promotion Coordinator in the Student Wellness Center.

Getting to walk on that stage will be a celebration of this chapter in my life ending, but also of the new journeys that lay ahead,” Narciso said. “Similar to many others here at SJSU, I am a first-generation student. Obtaining my master’s degree while working full time was not always the easiest path, but I am happy to be another example to students to show that yes, you can do it.”

The path for every Spartan graduate is different, but each one shares the joy of leaving SJSU with the skills and knowledge necessary to make an immediate impact in Silicon Valley and beyond. 

Below are stories of outstanding graduates SJSU has highlighted during their time on campus, as well as quotes from Spartans about how their time at Silicon Valley’s public university transformed their lives (Editor’s note: Quotes were edited for clarity).

Nina Chuang, ’23 Nutrition and Food Science

Juan Angel Johnston-Chavez, ’23 Vocal Performance and Music Education

Aimee Ramos, ’23 Biomedical Engineering

Joshua Reyes, ’23 Advertising

Justise Wattree, ’23 Humanities

Richard Jeremy Bunch, ’23 Economics – “When I was 16 years old, I was in a catastrophic car accident. On Christmas Eve 2002, I missed a curve driving home, and drove over a cliff, dropping 30 feet upside-down into a creek in the Saratoga hills. The police and fire were calling off their search for me when my good friend said, ’No, I am going to find him.’ After being trapped upside-down, unconscious, near death for around 16 hours, they found me. 

“After a long extraction, I was airlifted to Stanford hospital where I stayed for nearly three months, most of that time spent in a coma. After that, I was moved to Kaiser to have extensive surgeries done on my leg to try and save it from being removed. I was never supposed to walk again, talk again, or live any kind of normal life again. I was unwilling to accept that fate, so I continued high school and graduated with my class. I received my black belt in DanZanRyu Jujitsu. I received my AA degree from DeAnza College, and now I’m receiving my BS degree from SJSU. This is a dream come true! Thank you SJSU and the Accessible Education Center for all of the help you have given to achieve my goals.”

Jose Luis Villareal, Jr., ’23 Communications – “An accomplishment I am proud of is I am the first in my family to graduate from a four-year university. I transferred to San José State University from junior college in fall 2020 as an adult learner. I have shown incredible resilience, determination and spirit during the COVID-19 pandemic, which spanned more than a year of my college experience. A valuable lesson I learned at San José State University is that no matter what challenges come across my path to reach my milestone, I as a parent am setting an example for my children to never give up. [That’s] what it means to be a Spartan.”

Valerie Valle, ’23 Psychology – “As a first-generation college student majoring in psychology, my experience at SJSU has exceeded all my expectations. The university’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity, along with the exceptional education and support services, has exceeded my expectations and prepared me well for my future career. I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences that SJSU has provided me with, and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow on my academic and personal journey.”

Norma Lucia Moreno, ’23 MA Higher Education Leadership – “As a first generation Latina who has had major challenges and barriers come her way, I have found that I do have a purpose. SJSU has been the educational foundation of finding my purpose as an individual who has a lot to contribute to other students like myself and to the community. SJSU offered support programs, leaders that exemplified leadership and guidance to prepare me for where I am  today.”

Lucia Sanchez, ’23 Interdisciplinary Studies – “This program has changed my life completely. I never would have imagined being able to earn a BA. Through SJSU Online I was able to earn my BA and am now able to work in higher positions in education. It also has inspired me to pursue a masters and a doctorate degree. I truly believe education changes lives and this is something that SJSU has done for me. In my program, the professors and advisors would not let a student fail even if they tried. They were always there for support with any questions we had or even for emotional support. I am beyond thankful to SJSU and everyone in the BAIS program. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to complete my dream of finally earning my degree.”

Charleson Andrada, ’23 Business Administration – “SJSU provided opportunities on a professional and personal level for me along with having a very special culture of community. I learned valuable lessons about networking, friendships and time management on a professional or personal level. These values are relatable and important to everyone in many ways.”

Dawa Futi Sherpa, ’23 Business Administration – “I am very grateful to become a part of the Spartan family. Attending SJSU has been a transformative experience for me. Before starting my degree program, I was unsure of my career path and lacked confidence in my abilities. However, as I progressed through my coursework and engaged with faculty and peers, I began to develop a deeper understanding of my academic interests and strengths. SJSU provided me with a wealth of resources and opportunities to explore my passions and pursue my goals. I participated in research projects, volunteer and extracurricular activities that helped me gain valuable skills and experiences. I also connected with Career Center mentors who provided me with the guidance and support I needed to pursue various career opportunities.”

Saurabh Milind Mahajan, ’23 MS Industrial and Systems Engineering – “It has been a great experience, with outstanding professors and remarkable facilities. I have been a part of comprehensive projects that have taught me technical and non-technical aspects of industrial knowledge.”

A submission on behalf of Denise Leonor Viera Renfro, ’23 DNP – “SJSU gave Denise the knowledge and confidence to lead nursing initiatives and present them at regional and national venues. SJSU complemented her US Navy training and leadership.”

Ryan H. Smith, ’23 MS Creative Writing – “SJSU gave me the opportunity to become a teaching assistant. Running my own classroom has been a goal of mine since childhood and now I have the professional experience to help me launch a career path.”

Athira Sarath, ’23 MS Public Health – “It was a great experience and opportunity to further my communication and leadership skills.”

Eric Benayame Manzambi, ’23 French – “[Studying at SJSU helped me] understand the goal of my life and what to focus on for the future. I learned a lot from my professors and the courses I took. Even though some of them were really challenging, it was an incredible experience.”

Ryan Edley, ’23 MS Interdisciplinary Engineering – “SJSU introduced me to many intelligent and amazing people and allowed me to pursue engineering topics that interested me. I learned that even when everything is locked down and it seems like there are no options, you can always improve yourself and your hard work will be rewarded.”

Morgan Miller-Trappen, ’23 Graphic Design, Business Marketing – “I was independent from a young age and the programs at SJSU helped me to achieve my goal of dual major completion, [while also providing] financial support and emotional support. The Guardian Scholars Program at SJSU gave me so much support as well as the kindness  I needed to get through my time here. I have come such a long way since joining SJSU, and all the things that put me down in life have become incentives for me to push myself harder, run faster and finally pass this finish line. Now, I’m graduating from SJSU with the degree of my dreams.

“My biggest supporter was my grandfather, who passed at the end of 2022, just before I graduated. He only ever wanted someone to graduate and he told me he couldn’t have been more proud of the person I’d become. Even if he can’t be here physically, I know his spirit will be with me in May when I walk in the very first graduation I’ve ever been a part of in my life.”

Monserrat Vera Rumbo, ’23 MS Speech Pathology – “San José has been a home to me since I was five years old. I went to Horace Mann [Elementary School], basically down the street from SJSU. I went to what back then it was Burnett Middle School and graduated from San José High (SJH). When I was in high school (2014), I applied to SJSU for criminology and unfortunately I did not get accepted. Fast forward, and almost 10 years later, I came to finish my education and obtain my master’s, something I never thought would be in the books for me. When I was a freshman at SJH, I thought I knew that any education I pursued was not worth the hassle due to my immigration status. I knew that I was not able to work on any dreams that I had because I did not have those 9 digits that are required to work. Now that I look back, I wish I could tell my young self that there was hope. Fast forward to now, I have accomplished [my goal of finishing] my education in the place I call home.”

Fernanda Patino, ’23 Justice Studies – “I am a first-generation college student graduate from the university, so this just means that I’ve made a really big accomplishment [for] my family. I was able to do this for my parents [even when]  other people thought that I couldn’t do it. While attending San José State, I was able to realize that you don’t need someone to let you know [what you can do] and that you can keep going no matter what because you have that support from the school.”

Han-Ching Lin, ’23 Business Analytics – “Emerge in American culture and time management.”

Learn more about spring 2023 commencement ceremonies.